God of War Ragnarok has a lot to live up to following the heels of a masterpiece title that showed us a different side to the Ghost of Sparta we had not seen before. Filled with gory moments and taking place in a world of Norse mythology, the 2018 hit set the stage for what future God of War titles would look like and left us with some loose strings and plenty of questions.
Years later the story continues, the gods Kratos and his son Atreus angered in their previous adventure want revenge. It’s hard to outdo such a grandiose title that hit all the right buttons, but God of War Ragnarok recreates that feeling that made the previous one so successful while further exploring a very natural relationship between a father and son. It’s another glorious entry into a series that is as bloody as it is beautiful and features plenty of improvements to make it one of the best games you will play this year.
The Story Continues
- Impressive storytelling elements set in a vast world to explore;
- Realistic animations and cutscenes that blend into the action;
- Top-notch writing and acting that propel the story forward.
- More of the same God of War experience.
What truly holds the game together as you travel through the Nine Realms of Norse mythology is the relationship you explore between the characters you meet, both old and new. This is one sequel that is best played after you complete God of War as the story continues what transpired years in the original, conflicts and consequences included. You do get a brief summary to bring you up to speed, but with various references to the original, you will be doing yourself a disservice by not playing that one first.
Of course, this sequel also brings with it plenty of powerful characters including several quintessential gods from Norse mythology such as Thor and Odin, but other more obscure ones you don’t hear all the time also make an appearance. Each god is portrayed in a unique light Santa Monica Studios has created for them, and various other creatures you encounter all make for a delectable smorgasbord of mythological wonders. From Valkyries to dwarves to a touching rendition of Fenrir, Ragnarok brings you more characters to discover and a plethora of new enemies and bosses to destroy.
We've prepared interactive maps for God of War Ragnarok that contain 100% of the game's secrets, collectibles, Nornir chests, Lore, artefacts, or Odin's Ravens. Make sure to check out our original guide and the interactive maps.
Following the last game, Kratos and Atreus are targets of the wrath of the gods, and without spoiling much about the plot, just know that you will be trying to prove fate (and the Fates) wrong. It’s a story that takes you even deeper through the Nine Realms—and you will actually get to visit all of them this time and take in their wondrous beauty—but even beyond the lofty goals you have of outwitting gods and surviving Fimbulwinter before the titular Ragnarok descends upon the world, the game also further dives into the very common struggles a parent would have with their child.
Atreus is a few years older now and going through that stage in life most teenagers experience when discovering themselves and the world around them. Kratos, in turn, sees himself reacting differently to his son’s evolving maturity and starts to respect Atreus as the person he is becoming and not see him as the weak child he once was. Remember, this is Kratos we are talking about—the god-killer from Sparta who tore off a god’s head with his bare hands. This Kratos is calmer like the one we saw in the previous game, but he is also more trusting of his son to make his own decisions yet cautious enough to know what’s good for him. As much as it is a story of gods and demons, Ragnarok is also a story about a father learning to deal with his son’s adolescence.
Fighting With Power
These relatable moments that make you feel all good inside are juxtaposed with a combat system that is gorier than before and brings with it so many more enhancements and options for you to feast on. In the previous game, Kratos would use his hands a lot to finish off enemies, but in this one, you get to see various animations depending on the weapon you are holding and the enemy you are facing. Finishers are gorier and flashier, too, and bring back the delectable violence early games in the series used to showcase.
Combat itself is actually how you remember it from the last game and involves Kratos wielding his Leviathan Axe to rip enemies to shreds. You can throw it at enemies and hear a nice thud when you call it back to your hand, or charge it up to imbue it with frost energy to do more damage on your next hit. You also get access to the fiery Blades of Chaos from the beginning so you have more variety on how to approach certain situations and will also need to make smart choices depending on what element, fire or ice, an enemy could be weak to. Fights are combo-heavy so you can easily go berserk on your foes if you want, but knowing when to parry or dodge an attack takes time to learn and makes for a rewarding experience when you get it just right.
God of War Ragnarok is an example of when to not mess with perfection. It features powerful themes we can all somehow relate to and offers a rollercoaster of emotions that keeps you hooked until the end.
Even the armor you wear and the various accessories and shields allow you to shape your experience to your liking and offer you light RPG elements without overdoing it. Shields now play more of an important role in parrying and defending, but you can also decide to upgrade them to gather energy from attacks to then later unleash unto foes. Your chest plates, for example, can grant you extra strength or defense or even provide you with better cooldowns for your runic abilities that offer you added moves in battle. Even the skills you unlock—and there are plenty to play with—offer you more ways to plan out your approach in a fight.
Kratos will often fight alongside Atreus like in the original, but now your combo attacks are more fleshed out and make for a more collaborative effort. You will want Atreus to shoot his arrows to stun enemies, and you will often miss his help when he is not a part of battle. Others will also fight alongside you, and their involvement offers a nice change to what you are used to. The biggest change, however, comes when you get to play as Atreus who enters battle with his own skills you can level up as you play. It won’t be as full-fledged as playing as Kratos, but his involvement allows you to experience events through his perspective and feel what he is feeling. It provides you with another angle to the story while diversifying the feel of battle.
Wondrous Realms To Explore
Much of the rest of the game is like the original and offers sections that have you traversing your surroundings, engaging in the occasional enemy encounter, and then fighting off against a boss near the end. It’s a very straightforward formula, but when you decide to get to that goal is totally up to you. I often got sidetracked taking a side route to figure out a puzzle to unlock a chest that had some useful crafting gear and some upgrades. Side quests are worth completing for their rewards but they also open up entire new areas in the realm you are in. Ragnarok may be a linear game, but there is plenty of room to distract yourself for all the right reasons.
In fact, some side quests feel like extensions to the story and are strong enough on their own. These moments often trigger conversation between Kratos, Mimir, and any other characters that happen to be with you at that moment. They often add to the context, but can also get annoying when you are exploring a new area trying to figure out a puzzle, and one of your companions starts giving you hints as to what to do next. I get it, some people need help figuring things out, but these remarks often spoil the mood.
Exploring the worlds in Ragnarok also feel more fluid than before, and that’s partially because the game just feels faster. Loading screens are nonexistent unless you are traveling to different realms, but everything just runs smoothly and effortlessly otherwise. Reminiscent of early God of War games, The Blades of Chaos also offer you new ways to traverse areas and add to the verticality of exploration and even combat.
The Nine Realms themselves and all the splendor each world brings with it truly showcase the power of the PlayStation 5 and provide you with more sights that are just breathtaking. Each realm offers a unique landscape that can only be described as picturesque and enthralling. The lush forests of Vanaheim and the marshes of Svartalfheim, just to name a few, are beautifully rendered and are a sharp contrast to the gloomy and cold landscapes of Midgard.
Cutscenes display such realistic facial expressions that, together with the talented cast, make you feel like you are watching a film. Characters like Freya deliver their lines with so much emotion that they will give you goose bumps. Even the transition from cutscene to game is so seamless that I often ran into moments where I couldn’t tell when I could control my character again. It’s that good.
God of War Ragnarok is an masterclass example of when to not mess with perfection. Going into this sequel, Santa Monica Studios knew what to work on to truly recapture the magic that made the previous installment so amazing but also add in just enough upgrades to keep the experience fresh and exciting. At times, the game does feel like more of the same, but the improvements you experience after a few hours make it another worthwhile adventure.
Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.
What kept me going was the story and how Kratos and his son’s relationship would grow over time. When you strip away the mythology from the game, remove all the gore and bloodshed, and even all the fancy visuals and cinematography, what you get is a story about a father and son learning to understand each other. One is learning to control his rage and inner demons, while the other is growing up and realizing who he is. These are powerful themes we can all somehow relate to found in a game that offers a rollercoaster of emotions and keeps you hooked until the end.
We have received a copy of the game from Sony – official publisher of the game.
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com